Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Smitten Kitchen's Brown Butter Sugar Shorties: 282 comments and counting

When I was six or so, I loved the Brady Bunch.  I even stuffed my hair into pigtails, in the hopes of looking like Cindy Brady.

Because, you know, if I looked like Cindy, then one day, when I became old, like really old--eighteen, I might look like:

Of course, Maureen McCormick developed bulimia, but all I knew at the time was that she had cool, flippy hair.  I was convinced that despite my brown locks I would grow up to have cool, flippy blonde hair that I could swing in a boy's face when I wanted to flirt with him. Instead, my mother insisted cutting my curly hair at home to save money, leaving me with a vaguely Peter Pan-esque, Davy Jones-style haircut rather than that of the coveted Marsha.

By the time I hit nine years old, my hair had grown into a great, fluffy mass. Kids used to call me "the wig lady" in school, and no amount of Nexxus could tame it.  Part of the problem was that big hair was supposed to be a 'good thing'  in the 1980s, and every hair product was designed to maximize rather than minimize volume. As a tubby kid with thick glasses, the last thing I needed was hair to make me look even bigger.  I tried using Pert Plus once, to be like the other girls in my class. Shampoo and conditioner in one?  Oh, they lied!  My mother had to cut out a knot the size of a brillo pad from my 'fro after I used green goo.

Unsurprisingly, I would come home every day from school, my hair crunchy with spitballs and cry.

These formative experiences often made me want to seem as unobtrusive as possible. Except when I was performing (I had a great 'turn' as the Queen of Hearts in 6th grade), I tried to hide.  By the time I was an adult I had perfected the art of disappearing.  I could creep so stealthily that despite living in some horrible neighborhoods in my 20s, no one ever mugged me (knocks wood) because I knew how to dart in-between the shadows.

Unfortunately, being unobtrusive is great if you're an chubby, unattractive prepubescent. Being a blogger aspiring to be the next Hot Young(ish) Thing...it ain't so great to be unobtrusive.  So I was totally jealous when I stumbled upon Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties by Smitten Kitchen.

I am obsessed with browned butter, but what made my head explode was how this recipe with nary and egg, and only the most basic ingredients of sugar, flour, vanilla and salt could generate 282 comments, debating the recipe's virtues.

The debate was this--following Deb's directions, and in Deb's pictures, thick, luscious slabs of cookies were produced by the rolled dough. Yet about half of the commentators, while they loved the taste, said that their efforts produced thin, crispy little rounds and complained about the sandy taste and the spreading. The other half said that these were the best cookies they had ever tasted.

You can see from my photograph what my results were....

Some spreading but a tasty cookie.  Reading comment 258  (yes, I did not go to graduate school in vain!  I read the comments), I didn't cream the browned, chilled butter to create a more solid dough.  Then, after the cookies cooled, I refrigerated them, to firm them up a bit.

Although they are rather plain, they taste lovely.  Much like the shy, slightly unattractive girl on the cookie platter of life who has inner beauty.

I made the recipe almost exactly as stated, but I'll rewrite it for 'technique's sake' since I incorporated some of the comment's suggestions in what I did:


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


1. Brown butter in a pan, remove from heat and cool for 1 hour in the refrigerator

2. Mix butter and brown sugar together, but do not cream, then add vanilla.   Sift salt and flour together, incorporate into butter mixture.

3. Form dough into a 'log' (mine was about eight inches), wrap in parchment.  Chill for 2 hours until very firm.

4. Slice into 24-32 'rounds.'  Instead of rolling the log in brown sugar like Deb, I just sprinkled some brown sugar on top of the cookie flats.

5. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.  Cookies will be very fragile.  Chill after thoroughly cooled for at least 1 hour in the fridge to create a (slightly) sturdier cookie.


  1. I can definitely empathize with a lot of what you said. I went the extra mile as a teenager to weed out my "tells" in order to be as unreadable as possible. I actually took a course through work recently for "Emotional Intelligence" (hilarious I know) and the instructor who is trained at reading people (and trains others) outright told me I was very difficult to read. I told him it was intentional :).
    As for the cookies, they look great and I'm intrigued to try them since they're so controversial :). I'm willing to be that a lot of the problems with spreading is related to over mixing the flour and/or the amount of flour being used. In cookies seemingly small variances in flour can have a huge impact, especially when dealing a proportionately small amount.

  2. I would be spooked if someone in a work-related context told me I was easy to read! I would wear it as a badge of honor that a EI-trained facilitator was befuddled by you!

    I would love to hear the results--they are so easy, I will try to whip up another batch at some point soon. They were really good and everyone loved them who tried them, but I would like a 're-do' to see if I can get mine to look more like Deb's thicker, sturdier cookie. I should also try dark brown sugar, like she used (although she did give the option of using either light or dark).

  3. I remember reading Smitten Kitchen when she was running a blog on Ivillage getting married!

  4. @Blonde Duck--omg! That is like Internet Dark Ages! Almost like Diary Land old ;)

  5. Why do you tease me??? These look delicious!

    Twitter: @GlamKitten88